U.S. 13 enters the Southbridge community of Wilmington through an industrial area along Heald Street. Delaware State Route 9 (New Castle Avenue) converges with the route at both the Norfolk Southern Railroad underpass and D Street. The two routes overlap along a one way couplet of Heald Street south and New Castle Avenue north for four blocks.
The South Heald Street bridge for U.S. 13 passes over the ramp taking SR 9 southbound to New Castle Avenue and the former Shellpot Branch freight secondary line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Grade crossing eliminations were at the forefront of concerns for both highway and railroad departments in the first half of the 20th century. Between 1901 and 1907 the Pennsylvania Railroad elevated its line (still in use today by AMTRAK and SEPTA) through Wilmington to eliminate hazards caused by pedestrians, wagons and autos. Construction for the South Heald Street Project in 1941-42 was part of this effort.
The 608 feet long, reinforced concrete bridge features Moderne-style parapets and diamond shaped tile mosaics along its rails. Mushroom column technology was used in its construction. The South Heald Street Bridge, and the Market Street Bridge over the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks to the west, remain Delaware’s only examples of this design. The Heald Street span was rehabilitated in 1994.3
Heald Street carries two-way traffic for U.S. 13/SR 9 north from Lobdell Street to the Heald Street Bridge across the Christina River. A double leaf bascule bridge, the four lane span curves both routes west onto East 4th Street at Swedes Landing Road. U.S. 13 partitions with SR 9 north beyond the adjacent AMTRAK overpass for the one-way couplet of Church Street north and Spruce Street south through the East Side neighborhood.
The U.S. 13 separation of Church and Spruce Streets concludes at 11th Street and Kirkwood Park. The Church Street Bridge takes the US route northeast across Brandywine Creek to Northeast Boulevard. The 322 foot long Church Street Bridge represents another Moderne-style bridge. It opened to motorists in 1932, replacing a metal draw bridge dating back to 1869. The single-leaf, simple trunnion bascule bridge stayed in service for 22 years as a movable span, when large scale shipping along the Brandywine ended. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a request by the Delaware State Highway Department for a permanent bridge closure of the Church Street Bridge in 1952. Ensuing work replaced the original wood deck with one made of concrete and sealed the bascule span in place.3
While the bridge operating equipment for the Church Street Bridge was removed in 1957, the light grey operator’s house remains in place as part of the bridge aesthetics. Architectural elements of the span include accented concrete abutments, wingwalls, piers and balustrades.3 Northeast Boulevard, named Linwood Avenue until 1937, continues U.S. 13 north from Brandywine Creek through the 11th Street Bridge, Eastlake and Riverside communities to Governor Printz Boulevard beyond the city line. Governor Printz Boulevard was originally constructed as a truck bypass for Philadelphia Pike and its steep inclines.7
A number of route number changes were implemented in the city of Wilmington in 1970. Of those, U.S. 13 switched places with what was U.S. 13 Alternate, while the former alignment became U.S. 13 Business. Prior to the 1970 reroute, U.S. 13 followed Walnut Street north to 16th Street through Wilmington and French Street south from 16th Street to a dogleg west to the Market Street Bridge. U.S. 13 Alternate traveled the current alignment of U.S. 13 today, with a possible exception before 1941, where Church Street may have carried both directions of the route between 4th and 11th Streets through East Side.6
The alignment for U.S. 13 in 1937 followed Causeway (South Market Street) north across the Christina River to Front Street. The route dog legged east on Front Street two blocks to French Street north. French Street continued the route to 16th Street, which took U.S. 13 west one block to the Market Street Bridge across Brandywine Creek.6 By 1959, U.S. 13 north and southbound split into a one way couplet through Downtown Wilmington. Northbound followed the same route that U.S. 13 Business does today (Walnut Street, 16th Street, Market Street). Southbound however turned east from Market Street onto Fourteenth Street east to connect with French Street south. Second Street returned the route to Market Street.5